1yo German Shepherd Afraid or Aggressive?

Posted by Nessie
Feb 7, 2008
Hi, I have a 13 month old German Shepherd, Lex, whom I adopted from a rescue at the age of 6 months. He was very fearful then, mostly afraid of dogs. As he got older, he started barking at dogs, then children, then any stranger that comes up to him. When he barks, he mostly stands his ground; he's not lunging or backing away. When a visitor comes into the house, he barks at them. When I am at home, he will continue barking until the visitor sits down or otherwise lets him know they are not threatening. When I am not at home, but my roommate is, he will bark at a stranger and then run off. We have taken him to two trainers, one of which says he will be the most aggressive thing on the planet (she is biased against White German shepherds), and another trainer who specializes in German shepherds says Lex just needs me to be more alpha and show him I can protect him. I do all the alpha things - I eat before him, he is not allowed on furniture, I go through doors first, he eats only after given the command, he moves out of the way for me, etc. I do see a lot of improvement. He does not bark at people or dogs so much anymore. However, when I call him to come to me, he sometimes rolls over and pees on the floor. I never hit him, but I don't know if he was abused in some way before I got him. Is it possible to be too alpha? I want to solve his aggression problems, but I also want to stop the submissive urination.

Posted by Todd
Feb 10, 2008
Hi there and thank you for your question.

This is always a tough one to answer. Yes he does need to be alpha trained and it sounds as though things are going alright there. The peeing is definately a submissive thing related to the alpha.

The first thing to do is to make sure that your dog has been fully checked out by a vet for any possible medical reason for this type of behavior.

As a general rule, keep greetings low key and reward any positive postures that your dog makes.

Make sure that you do not punish your dog for its indiscretions. This will only make the matter worse.

I think it is best to completely ignore him when he is being submissive. This means no eye contact, speaking to him and turning away. The second he starts to show some confidence eg not on his back you must praise him. Use a low voice and give him lots of praise and attention.
This will teach him that confidence is good and submissiveness isn't. I would hold off on the alpha training until he has stopped with this issue.

As for the strangers it sounds as though things are getting better but here is an idea that may help.

*Get an adult friend to come and visit (make sure that you tell them what is happening!).

*As your friend knocks on the door or rings the doorbell, make your dog sit and give it a treat. Then put your dogs collar on and take it to either a crate or a secure room. If your dog is too much of a handful at even this stage then you will have to put your dog away before your visitor gets to the door.

*Sit your friend down in a room that is not often use by your dog. Give you friend some treats so that they can give them to your dog.

*Go to your dog and make it sit. Put a halti or muzzle as well as the choke collar on. Get your dog to heel then take it into the room that your friend is in. Make sure that your friend does not give any eye contact. Act as happy as you can while petting your dog.

*If your dog growls or disobeys your commands at ANY TIME then squirt it with water or shake a pebble filled can to startle it. Have the water pistol or can in your dogs view at all times.

*Make your dog sit quite a long way from your guest, perhaps in the doorway of the room. When your dog is calm get it to heel and move it closer, then get your dog to sit again. Praise your dog when it sits and heels properly.

*When your dog is calm and you have moved it and made it sit within 5 feet of the guest then get the guest to give your dog a treat. Make sure that the guest does not look your dog in the eyes.

Preferably you will repeat this twice a day for several weeks. That may not be entirely practical for you but will give you the best chance of success.

This method requires that your dog knows and responds to the sit and heel commands. Make sure that your dog does this before you attempt this method.

The same method can be applied to strange dogs. Get dogs to visit. Sit both dogs in the yard with leads on. Slowly approach the other dog making your dog sit and stay every metre. Reward good behaviour by advancing, bad behaviour by reprimanding. Only let the dogs meet after a few sessions and keep them on lead so you can control them.

I also think a product called DAP could help. This is a pheromone product that makes your dog feel happy. It is very helpful in these situations

Good luck and let me know how you get on

Todd Field